“It really is an incredible thing,” said Forshee. “I was enrolled in college full-time and driving a daycare bus part-time. I wanted to own a business, but I didn’t know how to do it.”
She learned how through the support of Community Action Agencies in Oklahoma, which encompass a wide range of, programs including childhood development, transportation, education, and employment resources for low-income people.
Community Action Agencies played many roles in Forshee’s life. Her children attended Head Start programs -- and it was there she noticed a pamphlet about the Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). The program is a matched “two for one” savings account that helps people with modest means save towards higher education, a down payment for a home, or a business start-up. Participants are required to take financial education classes and draft a plan of action to pursue their goals.
The program elevated Forshee’s entrepreneur spirit. She went from driving a daycare bus to owning the childcare facility in Edmond, Oklahoma in just two years.
“God blessed me with the right people willing to help. Five years later, I own the daycare with no debt,” said Forshee.
Community Action Agencies do more than deliver a wide range of programs and services to people. They impact Oklahoma’s economy.
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce studied the impact of 19 Community Action Agencies in the state. In terms of jobs, those 19 agencies directly support more than 4,500 full-time jobs. About 783 additional jobs are supported statewide from the operations of the non-profits and the household demands from their employees. The analysis illustrates that the community action agencies were estimated to generate over $172 million in economic activity from its employment and business operations in 2011. The impact of the 19 agencies is estimated to grow to more than $190 million in 2017.
“Community Action Agencies are economically important to Oklahoma, especially rural areas. They import money into service areas, provide employment/career development, and ensures that lower income households have access to community services to help with needs like transportation, housing, and health,” explained Wanda DeBruler, the project coordinator of the economic impact report.
The report shows that Community Action Agencies’ early childhood development and child-care programs have additional impacts on the labor force in the state. They provide affordable daycare options, allowing parents the ability to seek employment. Consequently, the geographic regions that have more childcare workers and options for childcare also have higher participation rates in the labor force.
Renina Forshee credits the Community Action Agencies for turning her life around. She is now pursuing a graduate degree in counseling while she continues to operate her childcare center. The childcare facility has grown with an enrollment of more than 100 children and employs a staff of 17 people.
The investment that Community Action Agencies made in her life has paid off.
“My life has really come full circle. I’m helping others by caring for her kids so they can work,” Forshee said. “I’m also setting an example for my three daughters. With hard work and faith, anything is possible.”
To access the entire economic report, visit www.okacaa.org/